Max Blizzard and the Gem of Camelot

Max Blizzard and the Gem of Camelot

Max Blizzard and the Gem of Camelot was first published in 2014 and is Patrick Hatt’s first novel for younger readers. The novel follows the adventures of three children in a world formed from imagination. Although it reads as though it is the first instalment of a series, at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

On the day that he turns eight, Max suddenly releases that there is something deeply wrong with his world. Everyone dresses and acts the same and nobody has the imagination to question whether or not there is more to life. His perceived insanity leads him to be viewed as a troublemaker and he becomes the first person to ever be expelled from school.

As his friend, Trudesile, tries to help him to be accepted back, they suddenly find themselves attacked by horrible phantoms. They are rescued by a band of magical creatures and taken through a portal to Camelot. Max quickly learns that the phantoms are beings called sevesties and their master, Sir Dreadvent, is looking to use them to destroy every dimension in order for him to rebuild the universe to his own design. As Earth is now the only world left untouched, Camelot has become a sanctuary for all of the creatures that have fled as their own worlds ceased to exist.

Max and Trudesile quickly learn that they are both very gifted individuals as both of them are able to use their imagination to change the world. Max can use his to create anything that he can bring to mind, while Trudesile can give herself the attributes of any animal. Teaming up with Lester – a half-leprechaun – they use their powers to embark on a dangerous quest. Their goal is to find the Gem of Camelot – a magical stone that could be used to breathe life into King Arthur’s pet dragon. They know that they must hurry because if Camelot falls before they return, Sir Dreadvent will succeed in destroying the universe.

Firstly, I should probably point out that this is by no means a young adult novel. Although I was advised that it was aimed at teens when I agreed to review this book, it’s clear from the age of the protagonist and density of the text that it was actually written with a middle grade audience in mind. While I’m not discounting the fact that young adult readers might still get a kick out of it as a light read, I think 8-12 year olds will probably enjoy it more.

The first thing that becomes obvious when reading Max Blizzard and the Gem of Camelot is that Hatt has an incredibly vivid imagination. Over the course of the story, Max travels to many different world and finds himself in all manner of situations. He fights a sea serpent, takes part in a Mario Kart-esque car race, walks on the sun and befriends many different fantasy creatures. Due to the nature of magic in the story – that anything that can be imagined can be made solid – absolutely anything becomes possible and this makes the story incredibly unpredictable. Hatt has created a world where absolutely anything can happen and that is something that I find utterly appealing.

One of the things I really liked about the story was its use of different mythologies. The novel draws its inspiration from dozens of different sources – Greek mythology, Arthurian legends, Shakespeare – but still manages to give these his own little twist. While some of the characters, such as Robin Hood and Heracles, were exactly as I remembered them from myths, others had been reinvented to add variety to the tale. Davy Jones has become a man made entirely out of blue goo and Arthur Pendragon is so named because he owns a pet dragon. It’s a very creative story and reads as a love letter to all of its many sources. The only one that I really wasn’t sure about is its treatment of the “Heaven realm” with God as its ruler. While I am personally not religious,  I felt that this had the potential to be offensive to someone with particularly strong Christian beliefs and so it’s possibly something to bear in mind before you read this novel.

Unfortunately, the thing that really lets the book down is its writing. While its creativity is undeniable, its weak prose makes it incredibly hard to read. Part of this is down to editing (as the story does contain a noticeable amount of spelling and grammatical errors). The author also made some strange narrative decisions such as having characters names mentioned in the narrative before they were actually introduced. For example, a character named Bandaid appears towards the start and is referred to by name by the narrative voice for almost an entire chapter before he introduces himself to Max. This is not something I’d ever seen in a story before and, to me, it really did not make a lot of sense.

On top of this, one of my personal peeves was is the fact that a number of characters have names that are very long and difficult to pronounce (Lempilightess, Pemestra and Trudesile are probably the worst offenders). In a book aimed at young readers, this seemed like a bit of an oversight. As many of them might still be learning to read, it seems unfair to barrage them with lots of names that won’t be very easy for them to say out loud.

All in all, this added to the feeling that the novel wasn’t very well put together. It’s a bit hard to describe if you have not actually read the story but the events don’t really seem to fit together neatly at all. It’s particularly noticeable in the action sequences but stuff just seems to happen with no rhyme or reason. For example, I mentioned Arthur’s pet dragon in my synopsis. This dragon has been turned to stone because the Gem of Camelot has been removed from her chest. Why is never explained (Arthur just tells Max that it had to be done). This is not the only example of weak explanation in the story – Sir Dreadvent’s motivation is said to be revenge against Arthur but we never find out what he wants revenge for. Also, to give a final example, Max has a habit of blacking out and winding up randomly in other places. For example, he winds up on the sun after suddenly fading away at the end of one chapter. Other that ‘plot convenience’, I can’t think of any reason why this would be.

The characters also suffer greatly from the weak prose. Max and Trudesile are fairly two dimensional characters and don’t really possess any distinguishing character traits. While I did like the fact that the two of them did work together to save Camelot (both of their strengths were needed and Trudesile never became a damsel in distress), they just did not really possess any characteristics that made them memorable.

Lester, unfortunately, is more memorable but for all the wrong reason. He mentions his pot of gold (presumably in case we forgot that he was half-leprechaun) after every sentence, often speaking about it as though it was alive and just dropping it into sentences when it doesn’t make sense to do so. For example, when he sees Davy Jones’s ship he makes a comment about needing a bigger pot of gold. While this is a cute reference to Jaws, it really doesn’t make any sense in that context.

Beyond this, the story doesn’t have much in the way of a supporting cast. The baddies are so transparently evil that they lack any kind of subtlety and the good guys are also fairly interchangeable. I did not even figure out which of Lempilightess and Pemestra was the centaur until some way in as they always appear together, just because the both are written with the same voice.

To conclude, Max Blizzard and the Gem of Camelot is a very imaginative story and is set in a truly fantastic universe but is unfortunately let down by poor writing, plotting and characterisation. While this story could have been brilliant, I found that these weaknesses were impossible to overlook and they did prevent me from really enjoying this book.

Max Blizzard and the Gem of Camelot can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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